Chevette to Corvette No. 26: The 1952-53 Detroit Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 36-33
  • Pythagorean record: 34-35
  • Points scored per game: 81.0 (7th of 10)
  • Points allowed per game: 81.1 (5th of 10)
  • Arena: War Memorial Coliseum
  • Head coach: Paul Birch

Leaders

  • Points per game: Larry Foust (14.3)
  • Rebounds per game: Larry Foust (11.9)
  • Assists per game: Fred Schaus (3.6)

Playoffs

  • Lost NBA Western Division Finals (3-2) against Minneapolis Lakers
  • Won NBA Western Division Semifinals (2-1) against Rochester Royals

Top player

Larry Foust

Foust was the organization’s first franchise player, but he got a little bit of help in the 1952-53 season. His scoring and rebounding numbers dipped some, but he also had four teammates average double figures in scoring, compared to just two teammates the previous season. Foust was able to play five fewer minutes per game, which paid off as the season went on. He was an All-Star for the third time and finished fifth in the league in rebounding.

Key transaction(s)

Drafted Monk Meineke and Dick Groat

Adding two impact rookies to the lineup in the same season gave Fort Wayne’s attack more balance. Groat finished second in the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) and Meineke was third on the team in scoring (10.7 points per game) and second in rebounding (6.9 per game). Unfortunately, neither player replicated that season. Meineke never approached double-digit scoring again in four more NBA seasons and Groat gave up on basketball after one season because he also excelled at another sport:

A two-time All-America selection in both baseball and basketball, Groat played professional basketball for the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons while finishing his final semester at Duke. He was under contract with his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates at the time as well.

Groat left the Pistons after the season to serve in the military, then after his service ended, he returned only to baseball, even though basketball was reportedly the sport he loved most.

Trend watch

Playoff success

The Pistons had their best playoff showing in their brief history this season, advancing to the Western Division Finals where they stretched the series against the Lakers to five games (it was a five game series, not seven, in those days) before losing. It continued an upward trend, as the team got incrementally better each of the previous three seasons. The Pistons were swept in the Western Division Finals the previous season.

Why this season ranks No. 26

Unlike a few other young Pistons teams that appeared on the upswing only to fall off, the Pistons built on this 1952-53 the following season. Although they lost a good player in Groat, the loss of a young talent would be mitigated by the next season’s arrival of George Yardley.

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